Uncovering Expectations, Not Just Managing Expectations

It seems everyone talks about managing expectations but it’s just as important to do the work of uncovering them. I say “uncovering” because sometimes they can be buried. Even from the people who have them. And ourselves. Too often, service providers will assume what the expectations are and cater to those assumptions. In fairness, sometimes these are experience-based and built over time from client engagements, but let’s keep in mind: Clients are not clones.

As consultants and service providers, we have to do a little detective work to understand individual clients’ unique needs. The good news is we are used to asking good questions, right?

We need to design questions that will extract what people expect from us when providing our services. Especially where they differ from other clients’, partners’, or our own expectations of ourselves and our clients and partners.

How is that experience matching or out of alignment with a client’s ideas? (This is also useful for strategic marketing communications efforts.)

uncover expectations vs. manage expectations
Expectations might not be spelled out. You have to ask the right questions to uncover them.

If you are new to business, you might might begin with making a list of all the things that can go wrong. But, since you don’t know what you don’t know, talking with fellow consultants in other sectors is a great way to be prepared. (If you are in Phoenix, contact me to be a part of a group who can help you.)

Some common things to focus on might be expected turnaround times for email response times for anything really. Also what will be the path if there is no response or repeated your responsiveness lack of their of or if meetings are missed lack of respect with respect to someone else’s time. It’s important I guess not only to say what will happen if these things happen but to say hey here’s what is OK and what is not. Oftentimes professionally we do not do this from a personal level and I think it makes all the difference. I talk a lot about authenticity and I think this is a great point of intersection between the personal and professional which I don’t separate out anyway.

Whether you are new or seasoned, after uncovering expectations, you might want to address the communications around that. In other words, “How should we respond if an expectation–expressed or unexpressed on either side–has been violated?” Note that I said “on either side” because you as the service provider are allowed to expect and hold accountable as well. This is a two-way street! (Also helpful for establishing strategic partnerships.)

Getting in touch with ourselves and expressing that in terms of expectations is for the benefit of the relationships and is a proactive stance to ensure success. That’s why it’s the #30DaysofQ2 Challenge for Day 26.

Is there a way or technique that you found to proactively uncover what you need to do to meet expectations the first time versus manage them on the back end once there has been a gap?